30 September 2008

Hello motivation, nice to see you again…

After what seems like months of overindulgence, it’s time to get off my posterior and start taking care of myself again. It seems that this summer was ridiculously busy and it was near impossible to avoid fattening foods and alcohol. While I’m still a reasonable weight, I do find my pants fitting a little more snugly. Seeing that I chucked out all my “chubby” clothes last winter, I have no choice but to remain faithful to a consistent diet and exercise…either that or I go naked….

After almost six months left to my own devices, I have decided to start tracking my progress with the Weight Watchers online program again. This is not a diet; it is simply a means of helping me be aware of the types and quantity of food that I am eating. I try not to get too hung up on daily Points allowances, but I do use the plan to help guide my meal planning and ensure that I’m not straying too far off the path. It’s a very easy system and I’m hoping that the old “bite it and write it” policy will help me find my focus again. Sadly, I think I will always have the appetite of a 300 lb. man…I have no idea where it comes from or, rather, where the heck I store it all?!?

Thankfully, my saving grace is that I have been smart enough to keep up the regular exercise routine. In order to keep things "fresh" I have also joined a cardio kick-boxing class and yoga at work. The bonus - I get my exercise out of the way before I get home in the evening on two weeknights, giving me more time to prepare healthy meals and, shock of all horrors, have some down time to relax. Mixed with volleyball on Thursday nights and some intermittent weight training at home, I don't think things will get dull anytime soon.

Wish me luck folks! With two Thanksgiving dinners, a late anniversary trip to Kingston and Halloween festivities on the way, it looks like October is gearing up to be equally indulgent. With a bit of luck and whole ton off willpower, hopefully I won’t be spilling out of my costume at our annual Fright Night bash.

29 September 2008

Little miss lippy…

For almost a full month now, I have had the pleasure of living with a strange bump on my lip. At first I merely shrugged it off, thinking that maybe I had accidentally bitten my lip while sleeping or that I was having an allergic reaction to something. I ignored the lump for a few days but the damn thing didn’t get any better. Strange…

Fast forward a few weeks and still nothing had changed. I stopped using lipstick or lip balm and I made a conscious effort not to poke at the lump. It wasn’t painful so much as it was annoying…kind of like constantly having a fat lip. At any rate, the damn thing was still staring me in the face every morning, so I decided to play it safe and went to my local clinic to see what the doctor would say.

Unfortunately my family doctor was not on call and I had to do a ‘walk in’ consultation with a new guy – my hubby’s new family doctor, who has somewhat of a reputation for being aloof with his patients. Typically I don’t care about the demeanor of the doctor, so long as he/she can tell me what’s wrong and fix the problem. He took a quick look at my lip, diagnosed it as a cyst and basically told me to try not touching it or sleeping with a bite plate (like a boxer) and it would probably go away eventually. He didn’t even attempt to touch my lip or feel the lump; he merely told me not to worry and that it was likely very small and just below the surface of my skin. I walked away wondering when the heck to expect this thing to subside and knowing, full well, that sleeping with a boil and bite wouldn’t work…I have a hard enough time catching Zs as it is.

I tried to ignore the lump again for another full week and still there was no sign of improvement. I had to call my hubby from Saskatoon to get him to make an appointment for me with my regular family doctor. Thankfully I did not have to wait long and met with him this morning. I am also thankful that this doctor is a little more thorough in his examination because his prognosis differed quite a bit from Dr. Apathy (not his real name, but I think it’s a fitting moniker).

While my regular doctor also agreed that I have a mucosal cyst, he did not hesitate to book me an immediate referral with a surgeon to remove the lump. After some probing around the cyst he declared that it is deeply seeded and not simply lying just below the skin’s surface as Dr. #1 decided. So there you have it, I went from “Meh…it will just go away,” to “This thing needs to be cut out and sent for a biopsy.” While I prefer the first option, I guess it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I don’t relish the idea of having surgery, although very minor, but I definitely want to get rid of this damn thing and be sure it doesn’t come back.

I’m not really worried at this point, just irritated and anxious to resume a normal lip shape so that people will stop wondering whether hubby hits me – lol. Mucosal cysts are fairly frequent in children who suck their thumbs or bite their lips, but that doesn’t account for why I have one because I don’t have either of those bad habits.

26 September 2008

Home sweet home

It’s good to be back. I arrived home yesterday evening and was greeted at the airport by a very happy hubby and a big warm hug.

The remainder of my stay in Saskatoon was fairly uneventful. I ended up going to the play at Persephone Theatre on my last evening. While I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of the acting, I am still undecided as to whether I enjoyed the play or not. I can honestly say that Samuel Beckett must have been smoking some pretty strong stuff when he wrote Waiting for Godot. I suppose one would call it a tragic comedy or a parody on the futility of life; I think it’s just plain nuts and perhaps a little to cerebral to fully appreciate after a three day scientific conference. I was also somewhat thrown off by the smells of incontinence (no really, I’m serious), as I apparently landed myself right in the middle of the Saskatoon Senior Citizens’ night out. Without exaggeration, I believe I was the only one in the crowd without white hair. They were a nice lot but I think they were equally confused by the play and I found myself having to explain, several times, which characters were which to my elderly seatmates. It was an odd night out but I will always remember it…

Yesterday, I spent my final morning at the hotel gym and then taking one last wander around downtown Saskatoon. I grabbed my ritual latt√© and made my way to the river to enjoy the cool air and soak in the beauty of the season before subjecting myself to the claustrophobic plane ride home. While you always hear people slagging off the Prairies, I can honestly say that I enjoyed Saskatoon. In particular, I will miss the berries! Much to my scale’s chagrin, I tried to consume as many sugar-laden Saskatoon berry treats as possible over my five-day stay. Not only did I return home with a significantly heavier suitcase filled with jam, I also managed to return with the lovely parting gift of a few extra lbs. squeezed into my already tight pants…darn…

It feels good to be home and to get back into the swing of things. I had to drag myself out of bed this morning and gulp down some extra caffeine. The downside to spending a week away from the office is that I will now be playing ‘catch up’ for days. I spent a solid 30 minutes just reading messages and cleaning out my inbox…75% of it consisting of absolute rubbish.

My plans for the weekend = a funeral, a birthday party and house cleaning. On second thought, maybe I should have stayed in Saskatoon!

24 September 2008

Fun with plants…

Today is my last official day in Saskatoon and while I’m anxious to get home and see hubby, I think I might actually miss the town itself. I can easily understand why my mother fell in love with this place so many years ago. Right now all the fall colours are in their full glory and it’s beautiful along the South Saskatchewan River. Not sure what it is about the place, but there is something that resonates in me…who’da thunk it?

While the conference may have been a bit heavy and hard to understand, I am walking away from this AGM feeling pretty good. My hard work, combined with the efforts of the local organizing committee, made the event run seamlessly. Last night’s banquet was actually quite entertaining and I was fortunate to sit with the only other communications person at the dinner. We sat by our lonesome at the front of the Banquet Hall, next to the VP’s table, because I had to take some photos during speeches. It felt odd being just the two of us (almost like a date), but most people aren’t eager to sit front and centre next to the big wigs…it is also painfully obvious that most researchers don’t really give a damn about people in my position. It’s not that they are mean per say; they just don’t know how to relate to me and I suppose vice versa as well. At any rate, I was happy to have a fellow lowly communications person to chat with and we had a great time regardless. Following dinner, there were two homegrown bands that entertained us. A big hats off to the local research institute here in Saskatoon; they truly are welcoming and loads of fun…quite the exception to the rule. They seem to breed cool scientists down here. Perhaps I’m due for a transfer?!

Speaking of cool, today I finally got to live out my own geeky science fantasy. After the conference ended at noon, tours of the local transgenic greenhouse and research facility were offered to people who were still staying in town for one more night. If you’re a regular reader you will already know that I’m a plant lover and a hopeful green thumb. I had to stop myself from squealing like a little girl when I entered a huge greenhouse filled with big, beautiful, canola plants. I felt like a kid in a candy shop and was just itching to get my hands in some dirt and start planting. The research that is being conducted at this facility is absolutely fascinating and it was interesting to see how Canadian researchers are trying to 'naturally' maximize a plant’s healthy genetic traits in order to create better crops with stronger yield. It’s promising research that may provide a crucial answer to the growing global need for biorenewable oils for food, fuel and variety of other industrial and health applications. This area of research interests me greatly and I wish that this particular institute could be based in Ottawa…fascinating stuff!

Now that the conference is over, I am looking forward to the prospect of relaxing tonight and being able to dictate my own schedule. While I originally planned to attend Waiting for Godot tonight at the local theatre, I'm not sure that I'm still up to going out and sitting by myself in a theatre. Maybe I'll just use this time to wander around town a bit more...I'm pretty beat.

So there you have it - my AGM recap. I survived and came out smiling in the end. I got to see a pretty new town, cross off one of the few remaining unvisited Canadian provinces from my list and I finally got out to visit one of our more interesting research institutes. I have already been invited back to visit the test Canola fields in the summer and I can honestly say that's it's an offer I will take up whole-heartedly.

23 September 2008

Two years and we’re still honeymooning…

First off, I want to wish my wonderful husband (who will undoubtedly read this) a happy wedding anniversary! Sorry I can’t be home to celebrate with you, my love. Instead you will be dining with my parents and I will undoubtedly be getting drunk all my lonesome in a gloomy hotel room. Beautiful, is it not?

So as you can guess, I’m still quite upset over being separated from hubby on our anniversary. I suppose, however, that we will have to get accustomed to this as we will undoubtedly fall into the same conventional routine as most other couples and only celebrate the big “5-year” milestones ...which seems more akin to a corporate business plan rather than a happy marriage in my humble opinion.

It’s hard to believe that this time, two years ago, we were sealing the deal with those fateful vows. At the time it almost felt as though we were merely actors in a play. We were reciting the lines and performing our roles but only now, a few years into marraige, am I truly starting to comprehend the importance and weight of those promises that we made to one another. You see, we have had actually had a chance to live those vows now and while I never thought it possible, I believe we are even closer today than we were back then. Marriage really did complete that circle; it put all the pieces into place and made us whole. I’m not trying to be romantic or wax poetic; I’m merely stating a fact…it’s something as natural as the act of breathing.

I hear so many couples state that the honeymoon period begins to fade after the first year of marriage, but I can honestly say that my contentment only seems to grow. Yes we argue and have our bad days, but there is always the strange and comforting knowledge that we just “work”. Daniel is the other half of me, my soulmate I suppose, although it’s a word I use infrequently. I imagine that is why I always feel a little blue when we’re separated by distance. It’s not that I don’t enjoy time to myself (I downright relish it at times), but when he’s not near I can’t help but feel as though a part of me is missing. It’s both a frightening and beautiful sensation, to know that you're that connected to someone.

What can I say...I miss my old shoe - lol

Love you hubby and I'll raise a glass, or two, or three in your (and our) honour tonight.

Update (11:30 p.m.)

My hubby is the best...he sent a flower arrangement to my hotel room! I received the suprise just as I was about to step out the door on my way to the AGM banquet. It almost reduced me to tears.

In true celebratory spirit, I did have "several" glasses on wine at dinner. I even stuck around and sang along loudy with the bands...despite the fact that the VP was sitting right at the next table and probably thinks I'm a wild one now. See what happens when I'm left to my own devices?!?

22 September 2008

Blinded by science

Today is the first official day of our AGM and Scientific Conference, and I already find myself ducking out for a quick sanity break. This morning’s sessions were decent because they put our new research programs into context - more of an overview of goals and objectives rather then the heavy science stuff. This afternoon, however, we got into some of the meatier jargon that sails over my head no matter how hard I try to understand. Science is often a language onto itself and, unless you are a working in that particular stream or subject, it all sounds like Greek to the untrained ear. Amusingly, even researchers don’t always understand one another. That is the difficulty is communicating science; it is complex. As you can imagine, for this poli-sci and communications graduate, my job is doubally challenging. On the plus side, if I can grasp a concept or understand its significance, chances are that ther average Joe public or a politician will understand. I’m kind of like a filter for information. If I can’t understand it; if it can’t be explaining to me so that I can craft a story, then the message just doesn’t get out there. Sometimes it pays to have a “non-science” dodo like me in the mix, because (unlike many scientists) I understand how the average voter thinks, feels and perceives science. Truth be told, not many people care. My job is to make them care and believe me, there really is some valuable and cool research going on in this great nation of ours.

Science aside, I have not been able to get out and explore the town much today. I went out for a quick walk to Starbucks but the weather has turned very chilly, windy and rainy. Because the city and the whole of the province is pretty much flat, there always seems to be a hearty breeze. At any rate, I braved the elements, grabbed a latte, and managed to find a little stand selling all sorts of Saskatoon Berry products. I stocked up on some jam and herbal tea. I also bought two chocolates for my hubby, but ate them once I started falling asleep in the conference room. Oops!

I’m happy to report that I also managed to snag a lonely single ticket to the opening of Waiting for Godout at the Persephone Theatre. It’s Samuel Becket’s most famous play, so I figured I would jump at the opportunity. The benefit of going solo, is that I was able to score a really good seat in 4th row; there weren’t many seats left for couples or groups. What can I say; I guess it pays to be a loner sometimes…

Nothing else exciting to report. There are still more scientific talks this afternoon, following by another networking reception and scientific poster viewing/ presentation. These things are about as exciting as a root canal, but I do appreciate the hard work that the researchers (many of which are younger Post Docs) put into their posters. As an additional incentive for presenters our initiative hosts a “Best Poster Award” ceremony at our final Banquet (tomorrow night). AGM participants are asked to vote for their top three favourite posters and the winners are announced after dinner. Each of the three recipients receives a certificate signed by the VP, as well as some giftware. This part of the AGM is another one of my little babies because I arrange the voting, the gifts and the actual logistics of the poster submissions and setup. It may sound corny, but I think it is a fun and valuable experience for young researchers. Publishing and presenting research is a large part of the scientific community and very much key to achieving a certain degree of respect and recognition.

Must go now. I have to get to my growing list of work emails and see to a few issues before the next set of talks begin. We have some external speakers this afternoon that will be presenting on research ethics and I actually want to be there for that discussion. It’s always interesting to hear about the “hot button’ topics. As a communications practionner, it’s always good to know what kind of attitudes and perceptions are out there. If the “poop hitteth the fan,” I’m always to first to get a phone call or inquiry.

Pray for me folks. It’s only 2:40 PM Saskatoon time, and I feel ready to drop. I can only drink so much caffeine before making myself ill. I did an impressive stint at the gym this morning at 6:00 AM and felt fantastic for about an hour, but exhaustion is catching up to me now.

21 September 2008

Greetings from the “Stoon”

It’s 7:30 PM Saskatoon time and yet I can still feel my body operating on Ottawa time. I still haven’t had my supper, I am replete with wine and I’m eyeing my hotel bed with desire.

So far I have enjoyed my business trip…mainly because the actual conference starts tomorrow morning. My flight got in shortly after 11:00 AM here is Saskatoon and I can honestly say that the bulk of my day has been spent loafing around and exploring the city. Saskatoon is certainly a smallish town but it’s beautiful. My hotel is directly across from the South Saskatchewan River and a beautiful walking path that follows the water. I walked for a good 40 minutes and magically somehow found myself headed in direction of the local shopping district…weird eh?

This evening I attended conference registration a networking/mixer. Thankfully I was able to meet a few new folks and did not spend my time cowering in a corner. Oddly enough, the first person I met today (my seatmate on the plane) is traveling from one of our institutes in Moncton New Brunswick – turns out he lives one block away from my Grammy’s old home. We had a nice time discussing the Maritimes and sharing some laughs…small world! No matter where I travel, I always manage to gravitate towards the Maritimes. While I may not have been born in N.B., I still consider it a second home and seem to have some strange kinship with other folks from the area.

Speaking of nice people, so far everyone I have encountered in the prairies has been very friendly. People seem genuinely interested in you here and extremely polite. I’ve never really considered Ottawa residents to be impolite, but being here makes me realize how reserved and self important we sometimes are. So thankfully, Saskatoon gets the big thumbs up from me so far.

I hope to sneak out and get some more exploration time later this week. I brought my camera and have been trying to snap pictures of my mother’s old haunts. This was the one of the first places she ever formally worked as a young nurse. I took a picture of the bandstand across the road today; I thought she would get a kick out of this because Pierre Trudeau apparently kissed her many years ago when he was visiting Saskatoon.

Not much else to report now. I’m still bummed to be away from hubby, especially on our wedding anniversary this coming Tuesday. At any rate, I am going to try and make the most of my time here and see as much as my busy schedule will permit. I am hoping to buy tickets to a Samuel Becket play that is opening at the local theatre on Wednesday night. I’ve never attended a play alone before, but theatre is one of those things that I think I could happily do solo because I can immerse myself in the story. Apparently the local theater troop is pretty good, so it seems like the perfect opportunity that I should be here on an opening night when they only put on a few plays within the year.

Must run now. Room Service is knocking and I am ravenous. More prairie adventures to come tomorrow. I am happy to report that I have managed to sneak some Saskatoon berries into my diet already. I have to stock up and get my fill while I can. I'm also going to see if I can find a shop so that I can buy some preserves.

20 September 2008

Prairie Bound…

Well my bags and packed and I’m ready to go…

but I’m not looking forward to it!

Tomorrow I’m heading off to Saskatoon for my organization’s Annual General Meeting. Unfortunately this isn’t exactly a pleasurable experience… unless you enjoy sitting in a gloomy conference room from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, trying to comprehend microarrays, nanoparticles, TGF-Bs and a variety of other scienific terms and findings that are enough to make your head spin.   For the seasoned scientist I can understand the appeal, but for a lonely communications practionner, it’s all greek to me!

My involvement in the AGM, is that I helped to plan many of the logistics of the conference as well as the actual flow of the three-day scientific program.  In a way, each year our organization’s AGM becomes my personal baby…albeit a large, thorny and annoying one.   Although the science is far too high level for me to comprehend;, I will admit that it is satisfying to see it all come together and, hopefully, bring some form of benefit and communication to our researchers.

Not much more to type now.  Must finish final preparations and head off to bed.  I’m grumpy about leaving for the next five days because I will be away for me and hubby’s 2nd wedding anniversary.

Very poor timing and I already find myself wishing to be back home before I’ve even left.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem with liking your husband a lot… you don’t actually enjoy leaving his side.   

17 September 2008

Family knows best…

After taking a day to cool my head and heal my wounds from the weekend’s pie disaster, I decided to heed my mother’s wise advice and went to the bakery to buy some pie dough. Finally the Gods smiled in my favour because I managed to snag the last three trays, just as another customer called to enquire about dough. After the hell I went through, I wasn’t going to let go of the dough, or my last scrap of sanity, without a fight. Don’t worry folks - no blood this time. Hubby pounced on the dough and we legged it out of the bakery long before the other customers even had a chance….suckers!

And now for the part that I hate to admit…Mom was right! Making your own pie dough is sheer insanity. I will NEVER attempt to mass produce pies with my own dough recipe again. This bakery stuff rolls out like a dream and it’s a breeze to work with. In only 30 minutes, I was able to assemble two glorious pies that actually look fit for consumption….an amazing feat when you consider that it took me 13 hellish hours to bake four measly pies on the weekend. Yes folks…it seems that old “pie magic” of my childhood has returned, with a little help from Mom and my local baker.

I am pleased to report that I am finally down to one large bowl of apples and only four more pies away from sweet tasty victory! Looking back on this experience, it’s hard not to laugh. This year we’ll be playing pie lottery. (I.e. You never know what kind of pie you’re going to get from the freezer because no two are the same...most are ranging from disaster to “points for trying” status.)

I guess I’ll just have to chalk this one up to another “life lesson” on the domesticity front. I’ll also be sure to pass on my mother’s wisdom to my own children some day…keep it simple!

In closing I’d like to thank my cousin “M” for taking pity on me and delivering a Quaker Apple Fruit Crumble bar to my office – allowing me to get my apple fix with zero frustration, no injuries or messy flour kitchen bombs to clean. You sir, are perhaps the wisest of them all!

16 September 2008

Confessions of a girly girl

It’s not often that I will readily or publicly admit that I’m a “girly girl,” so bear with me because this is a pretty big step for me. I’ve tried to avoid it, I’m not overly proud of myself, but even I have to face up to the truth eventually.

So just how girly am I? Let’s just say that I have a certain fondness for shoe shopping and a very good relationship with E-Bay vendors. But perhaps even more frightening is my recent interest in purses. Today I finally caved in and shed my conventional black rucksackesque bag (purposeful but about as lively a as a funeral), for an adorable purple patent leather faux snakeskin purse. I just couldn’t resist and I swear to God I could hear her calling my name in the store. Yes, that’s right, I did call my purse “her”…actually I have gone even further and named her “Bella.”

I am mildly frightened by the fact that a purse can make me feel so giddy – it’s one of those stereotypes that I hate to live up to. But she really is very, very pretty! And at $50, she didn't break the bank. Thankfully, I haven't quite made it to the point where I would shell out $300 for a designer purse - I'm not THAT girly!

15 September 2008

The great pie disaster

“How was my weekend?” you ask. “Terrible!” I answer. What else is a girl to say when she has devoted almost two entire days to baking apple pies?!? It seems that the “magical” pie-baking memories of my youth were merely a figment of my imagination, or a dreamt up illusion brought on by too much sugar. Let’s just say that my own pie adventure was seriously lacking that cozy-time, good feeling, happy vibes, “magic”.

Where did it all go wrong? Perhaps it was my stupid decision to try mass producing pies in the first place, or perhaps it was my overambitious attempt to try making my own dough from scratch using a new recipe that I found. Rather than meeting my eight-pie goal, I spent an entire day (13 hours) fighting with dough and a myriad of other problems, only to end up with 4 pies…two of which I would actually consider “presentable”.

The fun started on Saturday when hubby and I headed out to Cannamore Orchards to handpick roughly 50 McIntosh apples. It was a fun experience (a first for hubs) but our joy was overshadowed by the fact that we heard another couple discussing the fact that the McIntosh apples were not ready to pick yet….right after we finished bagging our 50th apple! We weren’t about to drop the apples on the ground, so we bought them anyways. From my knowledge, September is McIntosh season and they looked okay to me. We decided to stick with out gut instinct and hoped for the best (praying the whole way home that the other lady had lost her marbles). Either way I spent the entire ride home wondering whether I just wasted $20 on a bag of sour apples. Thankfully, they were just fine!

On Sunday, the baking spree started off at 8:00 a.m. After three hours of making 16 balls of pie dough (never again!) and subsequently making it look like a flour bomb went off in the freshly cleaned kitchen (sorry hubby!), I encountered my first pie-related accident. As I was washing up, I forgot that I had placed our new butcher’s knife in the sink. I slipped my hand in the soapy water and you can guess how it all unfolded after that. As I tended to my bleeding hand, hubby took over the mess cleanup. Unfortunately, the fun did not stop there. It seems that “disaster” was to become the common theme of day. Just as my finger finally stopped bleeding, hubby accidentally dropped one of our dinner plates on the floor, right next to my bare feet…once again, you can guess how that went. I sat on the floor and held my toe until it stopped bleeding, while hubby cleared up “bloody mess #2”. The icing on the cake (get ready for it), finally came when our first pie bubbled over on the sides and oozed onto the bottom of our oven, causing smoke to billow out of the over. Hubby had to rush to shut off our “very sensitive” fire alarms, and move the frightened guinea pigs, as the entire house filled with smoke. Choking and spluttering, we took the pie out and shut the oven off.

All day it seemed as though my pies were destined to fail. We had to wait for the oven to cool before removing and washing the drip guard. Once everything was back in place, we were fortunately smart enough to bake the remaining three pies that I had managed to assemble with a foil pan underneath to catch any drippings. In the end, bruised and battered, I had four questionable-looking pies and what seems like an endless supply of damn apples. We sampled one of the pies with our dinner and I’m happy to report that that is tastes awesome (a small victory), but it certainly looks disastrous.

Guess what I did with my remaining pie dough? I chucked the damn stuff and pleaded insanity.

When I spoke to mom on the phone that evening I asked her, “Why the hell did the pie tradition seem like so much fun when I was little.” It seems I forgot one key component of the ritual…it was “magical” because mom never troubled herself with making dough – she bought the premade disks from the local bakery. Gahhhhhhhhhh!

“Don’t worry little one,” Mom gleefully chirped, “You’ll learn in time!” Once again, dear readers, it seems as though I have quite literally bitten off more than I can chew…

12 September 2008

Therapeutic, my @$$...

It an attempt to ride myself of the final vestiges from last week’s neck injury, I decided to get a referral from my doctor for some massage therapy. Thankfully, the bulk of pain dissipated throughout the week, however I still found that my neck and shoulder muscles were tense and would seize up in the evening and early morning. Seeing as I am fortunate enough to have a healthcare plan than covers prescribed massage therapy, I decided to see if a good rub would make any difference.

Being a complete massage virgin, other than the quick and ‘unenthusiastic’ occasional rubdowns that I get from hubby, I walked into this experience not knowing quite what to expect. I was under the impression that I would spend 45 minutes being soothingly and blissfully massaged into a pool of contented mush. I did not, however, imagine that pain would be involved. In particular, I did not enjoy the sensation of writhering tendons, finger prods (jabs) and the post-massage tenderness that I am feeling today. The R.M.T. did warn me that I would experience soreness, but it never registered that the actual process would be uncomfortable. I think I naively assumed that this would be something akin to a relaxing spa massage. Instead, therapeutic massages are quite firm and used to isolate and loosen certain muscles. To the masseuse’s credit, the hard knot in my muscle has loosened significantly. I have no doubt that she knew what she was doing; it just wasn’t what I had originally expected.

Once again, it seems that the old adage, “No pain, no gain,” reigns supreme.

11 September 2008

Sono molto felice!

Only seven months until hubby and I jet off to Europe and it feels like ages. I have tried to keep myself from searching the internet for accommodations because it is still quite far in advance and many small hotels and B&Bs do not have their 2009 rates listed yet. Per usual, however, I could not resist the lure of Virtual Tourist and Trip Advisor, my much-loved and often-frequented sites for travel planning.

After doing a quick search on Firenze accommodations, I found a list of several hotels that were actually accepting April 2009 bookings. It must have been my lucky day because one of the top ranked suggestions was actually within my price range and it fits the bill for everything that we had hoped for during our 3-night stay in Tuscany. I was feeling a little disheartened after earlier searches, where I could only seem to find some sketchy pensiones that were charging an arm and a leg for very basic accommodations with no bathroom. For almost the same amount as some 1 or 2 star establishments, I was ecstatic to actually find early booking at a 4-star hotel. I jumped at the online offer and was doubly blessed to learn that the three nights are entirely refundable should plans change; I have up to 24 hours before the date of arrival to inform the hotel of any changes or cancellations without risk of a penalty…score again! The hotel looks beautiful and it has glowing ratings on Trip Advisor. Can’t wait.

While I was on a role, I also managed to find several wonderful recommendations for a B&B in the tiny village of Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre. I contacted the proprietor via email to ask a few general questions and received a response only 30 minutes later with a mountain of information, some beautiful pictures of the accommodations and a booking form. Once again, this place falls within my price range and the family is even willing to honour the current 2008 rates if I do decide to book this far in advance. Each room is contained in it’s own little villa with private entrance and a terrace overlooking the colorful little village and the vineyards that dot the cliffs. The room offered even has it’s own lemon tree on the terrace - a perfect place to while away the hours while sampling some of the locally-produced wine. It’s as though a little slice of heaven has fallen into my lap. After showing hubby the email tonight, hopefully I’ll get the green light to go ahead and book ASAP. I have a feeling that I’ll have no problem convincing him.

So there you have it – one place booked and another well on the way. The dream is definitely becoming more of a reality now. I’ll take a little hiatus until December and then it’s back to hotel shopping for Paris, Venice and Rome.

10 September 2008

Crisp air, nostalgia and sweet, sweet pie!

It’s September now and there’s already a distinct crispness to the air. The days are comfortable, albeit rainy, and I’ve had to don my flannel jammies for the past few nights. I love the arrival of autumn; sleeping with open windows, bundled in cozy sweaters, the changing colours of the tress and field behind my home and, of course, harvest time!

There’s something about this season that gives me the warm fuzzies. It seems that the bulk of my fondest childhood memories stem back to fall. I remember walking in the Gatineau hills every year with my family, jumping in piles of brightly coloured leaves, religiously planning out my Halloween attire and spending countless hours making decorations for my parents home - printing out ‘clip art’ Frankenstein cut outs on my father’s old dot matrix printer. It was a simple time and I relished every moment of it. Even as an adult, I’m equally enchanted by the season and I find myself trying to relive moments of my childhood; there’s a certain comfort that comes from keeping traditions alive. I imagine I will be ten times worse when I have children, but for now I’m enjoying bonding with hubby over these little bits and pieces of my past and trying to make them part of our new family tradition.

This weekend I’m hoping to kick off the season by visiting an apple orchard. As a child I remember going on hay rides with the family to pick out several buckets of apples. When we got home, Mom and I would begin washing, peeling and preparing the apples for pies. I remember sneaking gobs of apple chunks covered in brown sugar and cinnamon (still a favourite treat to this day). Once the pies were made, we would freeze them and have enough to last us well into the next year. Looking back, I think this is probably where my love for baking and my obsession with “all things apple” came from. Old habits die hard and I now find myself yearning to pick up the torch and start mass producing the old family pie recipe with hubby. The only glitch in my plan, is that we don’t actually have a deep freeze to store all the pies. Something tells me, however, that my parents won’t mind me taking up some space in their freezer, so long as I continue to cook the big holiday feasts. An added bonus – I won’t have to make any desserts this year!

Fingers crossed folks; hopefully the rain will hold this weekend and hubby and I can get out to the orchard.

08 September 2008

What a wedding!

It’s official; my big brother is finally married! The wedding extravaganza is over and the happy couple will be jetting off to the “motherland” (A.K.A. Ireland) in a few hours for their highly anticipated honeymoon. They have certainly earned their escape and I’m absolutely thrilled for them!

I am happy to report that the big day went off without a hitch; even the cool rainy weather couldn’t dampen the beauty of the occasion. Thankfully the recent string of O’Brien bad luck didn’t transfer to the newlyweds on their special day. In the lead-up to the wedding, our physical ailments were beginning to border on ridiculous. On top of Mom’s poor knee and Dad’s pinched nerve, my father decided to drop a butcher’s knife on his toe, slicing through the end of his toe and leaving the newlyweds to contemplate whether the father-of-the-groom would be going up the aisle in flip-flops. Not one to be upstaged, I ended up injuring myself further on Friday by stretching out my sore neck…bad idea. I ended up pulling some muscles in my neck and back and spending a subsequent two hours in Urgent Care. I could barely turn my head and the doctor recommended a neck brace on top of a cocktail of anti-inflammatories and pain killers. I begrudgingly wore the neck brace to the wedding rehearsal, which earned me a good deal of merciless teasing. I opted to stay home that evening and missed out on a sleepover at the bride’s house with the rest of the bridal party. I was sad to miss out but I’m glad that I got a much needed rest and a good night’s sleep. Thankfully, my mobility improved for the wedding, aided, of course, by healthy doses of alcohol. I was even able to flail myself across the dance floor all night, although my neck did not thank me for it on Sunday.

The ceremony itself was beautiful. Ottawa’s infamous Father Joe presided over the ceremony at Blessed Sacrament Church in the Glebe. I now understand why he’s so popular among young newlyweds; he gives a fabulous and humorous service that really manages to express the important link between faith and marriage. He has a raw, honest and entertaining way of relating valuable messages that even the most hardened-atheist could appreciate. The congregation found themselves laughing on many occasions; I’m sure it was also a nice way to lighten the mood for the bride and groom.

The bride and groom were all smiles as they said their vows. They both looked wonderful and I couldn’t quite grasp the fact that I was watching my only sibling becoming a married man. Having gone though the process myself, I fully understand what a leap marriage is – it’s an awesome milestone and a stepping stone to many more adventures to come. I tried to hold my tears in but I ended up blubbering like a baby. Thank God the mother-of-the-bride had Kleenex on hand, otherwise I would have looked like Gene Simmons (√† la runny makeup).

The ceremony was capped off in fine style with a bagpiper and a police honour guard creating an archway with their swords as the newlyweds exited the church. It was a special treat and very meaningful to my brother and his wife as they both work for the Ottawa Police Service, as did half of the congregation I believe. It was a very nice touch!

Following the ceremony, the bride and groom enjoyed a private photo session in a nearby park. Thankfully the rain managed to hold off for the pictures and they were able to get the shots that they wanted. In the meantime, the rest of the wedding party, family and guests headed out to Kanata to check into the Brookstreet Hotel (fabulous!) and make our way over to the Marshes Golf Course (again fabulous!) for the reception.

Overall, it was quite the party. The food was great, the wine was delish and the speeches were short, sweet and heartfelt. My hubby also did an amazing job as the MC! The real showstopper of the evening, however, was a slideshow that was created by the bride’s cousins - a highlight of the bride and groom’s childhood and relationship, narrated in the style of Law & Order. Very clever, fitting and hilarious! I am still marveling over the thought and effort that went into the presentation. It will be an awesome keepsake for the newlyweds and something we will undoubtedly all laugh at for years to come.

The post dinner dance was a blast. The bride is blessed with a large family that loves to dance and have a good time…needless to say, there was never a dull moment and the dance floor stayed packed for the entire evening, even long after hubs and I left with the bride and groom. At 1:00 A.M. I had to admit defeat…some soldiered on past closing.

On Sunday morning there was a breakfast at the Marshes for guests and immediate family that stayed overnight at Brookstreet. Everyone slowly ambled into the room, mumbling incomprehensive greetings and reaching for the coffee cups – true signs of a good party and a wonderful wedding.

Congrats Mr. & Mrs. O’Brien and all the best for a lifetime of love and happiness.

04 September 2008

Pain in the neck...

Why is that I have an uncanny habit of injuring myself right before important events? I exercise daily and am typically as strong and healthy as a horse, yet I somehow manage to bugger up my body at the most inopportune moments. Back in April, in the week leading up my trip to Mexico, I managed to tweak something in my back while doing a simple runner’s stretch. Now, only two days before my brother’s wedding, I managed to pinch a nerve in my neck while performing a fairly standard weight lifting routine. Any other time I would have been fine, but of course my body has decided to crap out on me when I need it the most. Here’s hoping that I won’t ruin wedding photos with my head cocked at a strange angle or by dibbling all over my dress from an overdose of muscle relaxants. Between my mother’s gimpy knee, my father’s sore hip and back and my wry neck, we’ll look like the poster family for a local hospital fundraising drive…the poor bride is going to wonder just what type of gene pool is she marrying into.

02 September 2008

Wild weekend wrap up…

It’s Tuesday morning and I am begrudgingly sitting at my computer wishing that I was still in bed recovering from a wild Labour Day weekend. The fact that I could even lift my head from its pillow is somewhat miraculous.

Saturday was my future-Sister-In-Law’s bachelorette party and I am happy to report that we gave her a day and night to remember for the rest of her life. The day started off at the Maid-Of-Honour’s house for an in-home spa treatment, complete with lots of alcohol, treats and girly chat. In the evening some other ladies joined us for a potluck dinner and, the big surprise, a belly dancing lesson! This proved to be an wonderful idea and we all had a blast trying to gyrate our hips and mimic the instructor. The awesome MOH even picked up belly dancing skirts for the bridal party while she was in New York City a few weeks ago. I loved it so much that I’m seriously considering taking a few more lessons this Fall.

Following our foray into belly dancing, a group of us capped off the evening out on town. We went into one club and left shortly after because the crows seemed way too young and pretentious (most of us ladies are old married gals now). Thankfully we were able to find a better place with a fun crowd that was more than happy to fuss over the bride-to-be and her crew. Oddly enough, it was a grungier “rock” place and we looked like a princess and her royal court compared to the rest of the clientele. You can’t judge a book by its cover, however, because the club was awesome…one of the best places I’ve been to in years. The added bonus is that my old wedding D.J. now broadcasts a show LIVE on the radio from the club every Saturday night. I am happy to report that he is still going strong and is just as wild and entertaining as he was at our wedding reception. We had so much fun that we actually closed the bar down past 2:00 A.M. – something I haven’t done since my first year of University. I think even hubby was impressed that I didn’t get in the door until 3:00 A.M.

On Sunday morning I wore by badge of “hard-core partier” with pride. I barely had a voice left after shouting over the music in the club the previous night. Thankfully, I was smart enough to take care with the alcohol, so there wasn’t a hangover or headache in site. I looked and sounded like a train wreck but I felt smugly satisfied with myself - proof that this old married broad can still go out, shake it up with the best of them and live to tell the tale. Okay, so I’m not that prehistoric…it has just been ages since I’ve been to a club. Looking at the younger folks on the dance floor reminded me that I really am getting older. I have a feeling that this will probably be one of my last times in the Market. I think I’ve officially transitioned to Elgin Street age – the designated spot for Ottawa’s older party-goers. I’m oddly okay with this change…being hit on by guys eight years younger than you no longer feels good; it just becomes creepy at a certain point.

After having a good lie-in on Sunday, I was able to recharge my batteries and prepare dinner for some friends that hubby and I haven’t seen for a while. Because of volleyball and a wonky summer schedule, we haven’t been able to entertain as much as usual. Needless to say, a dinner party was long overdue and we more than made up for it with some good food and excellent wine. After getting a little tipsy is was off to the basement to lure yet another couple into the wonderful world of “Rock Band”. Thank God I was on the drums because my voice was almost non existent by this point.

On Monday I decided to take things a little easier. I enjoyed a ladies lunch out in the market with two of my best gal pals (and former bridesmaids). One of my friends was visiting from Toronto with her newborn baby son. The last time I saw the little guy, he was not a happy camper and was determined to keep his mommy from enjoying her dinner. This time I am happy to report that the little munchkin was as good as gold and I got to hold him….so cute! Luckily, daddy was on hand to give mommy a break with just her gal pals so, after visiting with the baby, the three of us headed out for a nice lunch at Milestones and some decadent dessert at Oh So Good. It was a nice afternoon out and fun to catch up with old friends. We used to go out every Monday for Margaritas during our summer breaks in University; now we’re lucky if we can get together a few times each year…how life changes!

Once again, it seems as though I’m returning to work more tired than when the weekend started. Although I’m sleepy, I wouldn’t trade these past three days for anything - lots of fun and loads of good memories. Only four more days now until my brother gets married. I still have a hard time picturing him at the altar; for years he never though he would get married and now the day has almost arrived. I’m still not sure whether I will cry or not. I remained dry eyed on the day of my own wedding, but there’s something so emotional about watching someone else take their vows…especially when, in your eyes, they are still that same goofy kid that used to tease you and play fight all the time. Here’s hoping I keep my emotions in check and don’t turn into a blubbering fool…no promises though.